How to Clean Headlights Inside Cover?

Are your headlights still cloudy after you cleaned the cover from the outside? It could be because of moisture or dirt build-up on the inside surface.

Now, cleaning the inside of headlights is quite harder than the outside, for obvious reasons! It requires you to remove the headlight or the cover. Nonetheless, with some proper instructions, you can do this process on your own instead of spending hundreds.

Here we provided step-by-step instructions and valuable information from our DIY experts on how to clean headlights inside cover:

Types of Car Headlights

Headlights can be classified based on the housing type, bulb type, and number of bulbs. These are the most common ones we find nowadays:

Sealed Headlights

Sealed headlights are pretty common and if your car uses halogen bulbs, then you probably have this kind of headlight. Each headlight includes high and low beam operations. Older cars are more likely to have sealed headlights compared to other kinds of housing.

If the headlight and its surrounding are being held by a flat metal piece attached by bolts, you have a sealed headlight system. You can easily check it by opening the hood.

Reflector Headlights

Reflector headlights are by far the most common option because they've been around for a long time. Such headlights are currently found in practically all autos due to their low production costs and small size.

Reflector headlights are now the most typical for LED and halogen lights. There are presently a few HID bulbs on the market that function with reflector housing. Reflector headlights usually have a simple design and the wavy pattern is a good way to figure out that your headlight housing is a reflector one.

Projector Headlights

A projector headlight is a whole headlight assembly that includes the bulb. In reality, HID bulbs are the most compatible with projector housings. It's colorful, costly, and steadily gaining popularity.

Projector headlights feature a reflector bowl, which is similar to another type of headlight system, reflector. It has a special shutter that aids in the downward focus of the headlight. The rounded lens of projector headlights makes them look unique.

Composite Headlights

Instead of a simple sealed housing, composite headlights consist of an intricate design that allows you to replace anything inside them. Therefore, such headlamps can have DRL and fog lights along with their regular low and high beam options. HID, LED, and halogen – all kinds of bulbs are suited for such headlights!

Composite headlights are easily distinguishable by the complex design. Inside, you will find multiple bulb spots with black backgrounds.

What Causes Water and Dirt Buildup Inside of Headlights?

It is common to have your headlights get dirty on the outside from time to time. UV rays and dirt particles can cause this issue. Fortunately, for the outer layer, you can even clean the headlights with toothpaste! However, if it is still not giving you a proper night vision, maybe there is water or dirt buildup on the inside.

There are two prominent reasons for the inside of the headlights to get dirty or foggy. They are:

Micro-Scratches on Headlights

Over time, the gravels on the road you are driving on every day can cause scratches. Some of these scratches can allow dirt particles to get inside the headlamps. These micro fractures are a result of faulty protective coating.

Water and Dirt Buildup through Vents

On the back of the headlights, there are vents present. The purpose of these vents is to maintain the temperature of the headlights by allowing cold air in and letting hot air out. Moisture and dirt can enter these vents and can cause a buildup inside the headlights.

Many think that at this point, they have no other choice but to restore the headlights by professionals. However, you can still do this process yourself if you can put the patience and effort in. This DIY process will save you a good amount of money since professional restoration costs can be sky-high.

How to Clean the Inside of Headlights: Step-by-Step

If there is only water or moisture buildup inside your headlights, you can just have a look at our article on how to get water out of the headlight! However, for cleaning dirt from the inside without having to disassemble it entirely, follow the steps below. However, before that, get your tools ready.

Things You Will Need:

These are easy to find and cheap tools and items for this cleaning process:

  • A piece of cloth made of cotton (old T-shirts will work), or a non-abrasive sponge
  • Two high-quality magnets; you can also try these magnetic scrubbers.
  • A knife or scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Hot Glue
  • Cleaning solution
  • Towel
  • Gloves

Step 1: Make Your Magnetic Cleaner

If you do not have a magnetic scrubber, you can easily make your magnetic cleaner with two pieces of magnets and a cotton cloth or sponge. To make it:

Take necessary caution while handling the assembly. Use the right products even though you might have to spend an extra few bucks.

  • Cut the piece of cloth in a square as big as your palm. If you are opting for a sponge, cut it a little bit bigger than the magnet you have with the knife or scissors. Make sure to cut a small pocket inside the sponge that will allow you to insert the magnet.
  • For the cloth, wrap it around the magnet. Make sure the magnet cannot detach from the cloth while cleaning. With the sponge, you can just put the magnet inside the pocket.
  • Use hot glue for the magnet to attach with the cloth or sponge. Make sure the glue dries out before you start using it to clean otherwise it can make your headlights dirtier. You can also try stitching the magnet onto the piece of cloth.

Step 2: Take out the Headlight

For most vehicles, taking out the headlights is not the hardest process. All you have to do is unplug and unscrew!

If that doesn’t work due to having a modern car with complicated headlight assembly, take your owner’s manual out or just search on the web on how to take headlights out of your car based on the specific model you own.

Wear a clean pair of gloves while taking out the headlight. Make sure not to touch the plastic with your bare hands. Place the headlamp onto a clean and dry towel so that you can continue with the cleaning process.

Step 3: Insert the Magnetic Cleaner

You can use small clippers or a grabbing tool to put the magnetic cloth or sponge inside the headlight. Make sure the other piece of the headlight has a paper towel cover otherwise it may scratch the outer part of the lens.

Take the magnetic cleaner on the surface of the plastic inside. Then attach the other magnets onto it. When they are clearly attached, you can take the grabbing tool or the clipper out.

Step 4: Clean

Move the outer magnet back and forth to clean the inside of the headlight. Usually, a dry cloth or sponge will do the work. However, if it does not, use a cleaning solution like the Chemical Guys Restorer. You can, alternatively, use rubbing alcohol.

After you are done with the cleaning, take the magnetic cleaner out with the same grabbing tool.

Step 5: Re-Attach the Headlights Back

Carefully take your headlight and put it back. Just repeat the unscrewing process in the opposite. Make sure to plug in all the wires and screws. If you get confused, you can always look at your owner’s manual or a YouTube tutorial.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to clean the inside of a headlight?

You can clean the inside of a headlight, but you'll need some basic cleaning tools and a good amount of elbow grease. For example, to remove the dirt, you can use a toothbrush or an old toothpaste tube to scrub the light bulb, and then clean it with a dry cloth. 

To remove the grime, you can use some alcohol to clean the bulb, and then use a soft brush to clean the lens. Use a rag or a paper towel to remove the debris, and then dry the bulb with a clean cloth or paper towel.

How do you remove moisture from inside headlights?

You can remove the moisture from inside headlights by cleaning them with a microfiber cloth. You should also make sure that the lights are not exposed to the elements, and are clean before putting them back on. You should also avoid using a flashlight to see inside the headlight since it can damage the bulbs.

Why do my headlights get foggy inside?

Your headlights get foggy inside due to condensation. When it gets too hot outside, moisture forms on the inside of your vehicle’s windows, which then evaporates when you start driving.

This creates a mist, which can be seen on your windshield. If your windshield is coated with a clear coating, this can also block out light, making it appear that the fog is getting thicker.

How do I clean the inside of my headlight lenses?

To keep the lenses of your headlight clean, you need to take a bit of time and care. First, you should remove the headlight from your vehicle and turn it upside down. This lets the moisture drain away, and helps it dry faster.

Next, you should wipe it off with a lint-free cloth, and then blow it dry with a soft air duster. Finally, you can apply a bit of windshield washer to the lens and let it evaporate, then wash it off with a clean cloth.

Final Note

If your headlight’s lens can be detached easily from the assembly, you can take it out and clean it separately. However, for lenses that are hard to take out from the headlamps, this magnetic cleaning process works excellent!

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